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School administrators across the United States are making hard choices about whether to fund a full–time state endorsed librarian in media centers. According to the No Child Left Behind Act, only high schools are required to have an accredited librarian on site.
Elementary schools meet NCLB with just a library aide and middle schools need to have an endorsed teacher to administrate the library, but no actual library credentials are required. Some high schools are going to shared library resources by maintaining a part-time librarian who serves more than one building.
Clearly a librarian would be helpful in elementary, middle and high school levels. If politicians and school administrators remain unconvinced about the validity of an endorsed librarian on the premises then where is the proof they are worth having?
Let’s start by defining the roles librarians play in the high school setting. Librarians collaborate with regular teachers to develop and execute lessons in the media center. They collect materials to help teachers in core areas of study and assist through co teaching lessons, helping students one on one with finding source information from print and Internet sources, and remain before and after school to help students individually with their education needs.
The librarian is responsible for developing the collection. That means weeding out of date materials and selecting new ones based on reviews from trusted sources and curriculum needs. The librarian needs to know his audience and what their reading habits and interests are and search accordingly for new and established authors and new genres.
The librarian is responsible for teaching information literacy to students. This involves using Internet search engines; selecting credible sites; using data bases; citing sources; avoiding plagiarism; media literacy; and using MS-Office Suite programs.
The librarian is responsible for training staff to use new hardware, software and instructional equipment. The librarian develops and successfully executes professional development in the building and meets with small learning communities to further develop technology literacy skills for direct classroom use.
Not only does the librarian promote literacy across the curriculum, but he also serves on the curriculum committee to stay abreast of academic changes and new requirements so he can plan collection development and collaboration with fellow teachers accordingly. In short, he is a key advocate for change and improvement in the school.
Critics argue that today’s students are technically savvy and can navigate the Internet just fine. They can select their own books to read as well. So where is the proof that librarians make a difference in a child’s education?
Most notably, the Colorado study instigated by Keith Curry Lance of Colorado University linked school library services with increased student success on standardized test scores in April 2000.
The School Libraries Work study in the United States and Canada found that schools with quality school library facilities and programs staffed by certified school librarians found that students learn more, get better grades, and score higher in standardized tests than their peers in schools without libraries.
Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement: a Review of the Research: Report for the Australian School Library Association, in 2003 found school libraries can have a positive impact, whether measured in terms of reading scores, literacy or learning more generally, on student achievement. The evidence shows a strong library program can lead to higher student achievement regardless of socioeconomic or educational levels of the adults in the community.
What can an individual building librarian do to establish proof of academic impact on students?
Use of evidence based practice by librarians who evaluate their services rendered through questionnaires, quizzes, checklists, rubric, portfolio and journal type feedback strategies from students can determine impact on academics in particular buildings.
Use of collection mapping by the librarian for each of the core subject areas in high school, listing materials available, services rendered, unit topics, and assessments further connect services with academic achievement .
Further evidence of improvement may by obtained by comparing student achievement with standards set forth in Standards for the 21 st Century Learner by the American Association of School Librarians.
Does the job of librarian really matter to student achievement?
This portfolio assignment reflects the direction of the LIS 7320 course from beginning to end. It began with a review of common beliefs about what librarians do (collection development, reading advocacy, and information literacy instruction) and shifted to viewing the librarian as a leader for change who is involved in curriculum development; curriculum and collection mapping; collaboration with regular teachers and the degrees of this partnership, and evidence-based practice and assessing inquiry learning assignments. It broadened my view of librarianship and caused me to pause and try to define what the job description really entails. The answer I came up with is that it depends on the environment.
The photographs in this Power Point presentation were taken of the library where I am employed. As I explained in the collaboration project, this building is in the process of transformation into a STEM Academy. As needs change and new curriculum standards come online the job the librarian is currently doing could change from traditional to specialized. She could be in charge of media and information literacy for students and technology training for staff in small learning communities. Her priorities could shift from reading advocacy to meeting curriculum needs in technology application. In short, she will find a niche. The three points I make in the Power Point about documenting the impact a librarian has on student academics is practical, but, at this point, it is not the focus in my school library. I will speculate that the librarian will be evaluated differently when new state mandates take effect in the near future.
The evidence I use in this presentation lending credence to the positive impact librarians have on students has been well publicized in journals. What was new to me was the emphasis this course put on building assessments and data collection by librarians, which was on par with what is expected of classroom teachers to validate student learning. It is not enough to say librarians make a difference academically; it needs to be demonstrated through authentic assessment usage and analysis. The strongest advocate of this was author J. Ross Todd who said in the article School Librarianship and Evidence Based Practice: Progress, Perspectives, and Challenges , that in order for school libraries to play a key role in the information age schools and be perceived to add value to the learning goals and agendas, there needed to be a fundamental shift from the rhetorical, advocacy basis for ongoing practice, to an evidence based framework that focused on engaging with the research foundations of the profession to document evidence of contribution to curriculum outcomes and the learning goals of the school.
Todd cites from School Libraries Work, a study of 10,000 United States and Canada, saying schools with quality school library facilities and programs, staffed by certified school librarians, have students with better grades who score higher on standardized tests and learn more than their peers in schools without libraries. He adds that the impact is connected to an evidence based framework for decision making in school libraries.